I would like to formally and respectfully respond to the recent letter from Nick Clifford of Felton, titled “CHP too eager to ticket” (July 13, Page 6).
First, let us put to rest the popular misconception regarding our motivation for issuing citations.
The California Highway Patrol does not receive any direct funding from fines, penalties or fees collected pursuant to the citations written by its officers. The CHP is primarily funded by the Motor Vehicle Account, which derives its revenue from vehicle registration and driver license fees.
A portion of the fees paid by traffic offenders is used to reimburse local sheriffs or other law enforcement agencies to collect DNA specimens, samples and fingerprints. That means a good amount of each fee stays local. Another portion goes to the State Court Facilities Construction Fund. Although a percentage of a citation’s total bail amount is directed to the general fund, the CHP does not directly benefit from general fund revenue.
Next, CHP officers do not have a quota for citations or any other activities.
The quota myth is just that — a myth. CHP officers have a wide variety of duties: investigating traffic collisions, recovering and investigating stolen vehicles, assisting stranded motorists, public education, arresting DUI drivers, responding and investigating crimes on state property, the list goes on.
Traffic stops and citations are one way to deter collisions, educate drivers, and proactively improve safety for communities. Maintaining a deterrent to dangerous and criminal behavior is also achieved through highly visible patrol.
Since Jan. 1 of this year, one person has lost his life, while 22 people were seriously injured as a result of the 73 reported collisions on Highway 9 and Graham Hill Road alone.
I am also proud to say that CHP officers have arrested 83 impaired drivers on Graham Hill Road and Highway 9 this year. Each of those arrests is a potential life saved.
Those are only two of the many roads in the San Lorenzo Valley, not to mention Santa Cruz County as a whole.
The one compelling reason we issue citations is this: We see first hand, every day, the results of so-called “minor offenses” of traffic safety laws.
CHP officers write citations because it is their duty — and desire — to prevent death, injury and property damage. We have good reason to believe our actions prevent collisions. Statistics bear this out: The most recent published mileage death rate (deaths per 100 million miles traveled) is the lowest in history at 0.83.
Regarding the presence of officers in Felton: If Mr. Clifford resides in Felton, I am sure he is aware that the majority of the motor vehicle traffic in the San Lorenzo Valley and Bonny Doon area filters through Felton. Felton is also the intersection of two main routes for residents of this region, Graham Hill Road and Highway 9. To maximize their visibility and availability, officers often take advantage of the centrally located, busy town of Felton.
This also allows them the shortest response time to incidents in outlying areas such as Boulder Creek, Bonny Doon, or Zayante. We are dedicated to providing the highest level of safety, service and security to all residents of Santa Cruz County, however remote they may be.
So far this year, 14 different Felton area residents have called the local CHP office to request additional patrols in their neighborhood. As the leader of a CHP area and public servant, I am pleased to see that not only is our presence desired and appreciated, but the residents of the Felton area also understand that our presence makes them safer.
Capt. Matt Olson is commander of the California Highway Patrol’s Santa Cruz Area.